Rejection & Performance Problems for Both

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    Hello, Everyone,
    I just had the most devastating and worst experience I’ve ever had. I’ve had a huge crush on my next door neighbor for about a year. The feeling seemed to be mutual, but he always had a hard time talking to me in person so we never really established strong communication or a friendship other than as neighbors. I think he has extreme social anxiety around me. I couldn’t believe it when one night, we got together. It was obviously just about sex, but I assumed that he wanted more than one night with me and that I could trust him (because not only are we neighbors, but we’re in our 50s and homeowners, so we both have a vested interest in being comfortable with each other). I was sort of in denial, hoping that my vaginismus was a thing of the past (although it has been a very long time since I tried). So I just told him that I was small and that he’d have to be aggressive. I didn’t know at the time that he has erectile dysfunction – so my comment probably made him feel really anxious and set up for failure. We tried to have intercourse and I couldn’t let him in. When that happened, he abruptly ended the night. I never explained what was happening for me. And now I feel devastated and totally sexually rejected, because I thought I could trust him – that he would never do or say anything to hurt me – and that we would definitely have fun together. Instead, we both left feeling totally dissatisfied. He has been avoiding me ever since and we have not communicated other than some texts in which he assured me that everything is fine as far as continuing to be good neighbors. I have a feeling that he is completely embarrassed by his ED and that’s why he’s avoiding me.

    I really want to break the ice with him, because this was 6 weeks ago and I still feel awful. I am reminded of him and this awful experience every day, as I see him or hear him. I feel like if there was some way I could tell him about my vaginismus, at least he’d understand more about what was happening for me that night and why I’m feeling so awful. Crazy as this may sound, I have this hope that he would want to get together again, that instead of seeing the whole night as a humiliating experience that he’d rather forget, he’d see it as two people who have performance anxieties but could still have a lot of fun. And that we’d have some closure with even just one night of fun. Because a 1-Night Stand is always supposed to be fun or what’s the point? However, I hesitate because: (1) if we’re not and never have been (and probably will never be) in a relationship and this was 6 weeks ago, does he really need to know this very personal intimate thing about me; (2) if he has moved on (I don’t think he has, but I don’t know) then he may think I’m just a nutcase for continuing to dwell on our failed sexual encounter; (3) he didn’t treat me with the respect that I’d expect from a friend at the end of that night (which I’d like to think is because of his own insecurities and defensiveness, because he really, really doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would have acted that way).

    The silence and denial about what happened is killing me. I feel so so awful and devastated to the point that I want to move far far away. And I feel like if I don’t break the ice with him, I’ll always wonder if this whole messed up neighbor/friend dynamic could have been salvaged. He’s clearly not very good at interpersonal communication, so I know I’m going to have to be the one to break the ice.

    What do you all think? Should I tell him about my vaginismus? And if so, what would be the best way?


    Hi Leslie – I’m so sorry to hear about your experience with your neighbor, that sounds really hard both emotionally and physically!

    Speaking as someone who had vaginismus for about a decade before finally seeking successful treatment that now leaves me able to have pain-free sex, I got into this sort of situation a lot where I would be embarrassed to bring up my situation and hope for the best, only to get into a far more awkward situation in which I failed to be penetrated and felt ashamed in front of my potential partner.

    Vaginismus is so hard to talk about, but to share the truth of it is also an unburdening. Something I hope you will remind yourself at this difficult time is that having vaginismus is NOT your fault or something you deserve – it’s something that happened to you. It takes a long time to untangle the shame that builds up around not being able to have sex as women, but it’s an important starting point to know this is something you’re dealing with but not something you caused.

    As for whether to tell your neighbor about your experience, I think that you should. The fact that you’re still distressed about the encounter after 6 weeks is an indication that this is important to you and that it feels unresolved for you, that there’s more you want to say. I suspect based on your neighbor’s behavior that he’s very caught up in his own shame and probably has no idea what even went on for you. Telling him could both unburden you and create a new way to connect with him, to feel more at ease around each other.

    In terms of how to talk to him, I think it might be best to reach out via text or an email and lay your cards on the table. It would give you space to express things how you wanted and also give him the option either to engage or not to discuss it since it sounds like he has some social awkwardness. You could say something like:
    “Hey Neighbor, I find that I keep thinking about our encounter a few weeks ago and there’s some things I wanted to tell you about how that went for me. I have a condition called vaginismus that makes sex painful if not impossible for me… [however much more you want to explain your experience of vaginismus] I enjoyed your company and think we could have fun together in creative ways. Do you want to talk more about this?”

    I’m sure the prospect of opening up to this man about your vaginismus is really scary – and this would be a very brave thing to do! But I think you have already made yourself vulnerable in ways that make you feel misunderstood, and this could be a kind of vulnerability that leads to understanding. If nothing else, you would know you did what you could to try and salvage things and could reside in the knowledge that you tried.

    Let us know how it goes, and I’m so sorry you’re dealing with vaginismus. We have a lot of great treatment information here on the forums if that’s something you’re interested in!


    Hi, Recessivegenequeen,
    I am so grateful to read your thoughtful and kind response. I do think that it would help me if I told him for all of the reasons that you state. I don’t think I’m quite brave enough to suggest that we get together again, because I just can’t handle any more rejection right now.

    I think it’s important that I explain that it’s involuntary (not something that I can control by willpower and that when it happens, it doesn’t reflect what I’m feeling — I wanted him so much, but my body was tightening up despite my desire). I want him to know that I wasn’t rejecting him. And that it’s actually a compliment to him that I was thinking that maybe it wouldn’t happen this time because I am so attracted to him.

    One thing that I didn’t tell you in my initial post (which is why this makes it all the more difficult to have the courage to talk to him about this) is that he said some very insulting and unkind things to me at the end of the night and in his text the next day. When I said that I hoped he’d come back he said, “I’ll be honest. I’m going on a date tomorrow with someone I’m really starting to like. So if that goes well, then I can’t.” The next morning, he didn’t text me, so I eventually texted him. He responded: “I’m OK-ish. I was a little drunk and kinda wish it didn’t happen.” So, you can imagine how sexually rejected I feel.

    At the root of all this, it’s my feeling that he wanted to have a more long-term fling with me but that my vaginismus ended not just that prospect but the enjoyment of that one night. Even if he thinks it’s because of his problems that we couldn’t have intercourse, I have a feeling that it was the combo of both of us and that if I didn’t have vaginismus, things would have gone much better.

    Thank you for your support and advice. I’ll hope to be sending some positive news soon about the status of this whole drama!


    Hi Leslie – it’s so good to hear back from you! And I’m sorry to hear about how your neighbor initially responded both verbally and textually – that is a bad feeling and it sounds to me like he was lashing out from a hurt/rejected place in the moment. That’s not to excuse his behavior, but people can do really unpleasant things when they feel they’ve been seen too vulnerably. I hate that it hit you in such a hurt place.

    Yes, I really think even if it’s too much too soon to try again with this person (which I agree, there are a lot of feelings to sort through even if you communicate more) it would help to get some of these feelings off your chest so they aren’t bouncing around your brain so much. Another way you could think about it is that it’s an opportunity to get practice talking about your body, your desire, and how your vaginismus intersects with those things – learning to speak about your situation could help you communicate to a future partner if things don’t work out with your neighbor, and it will break the bubble you may have been keeping yourself in (which can be a lonely, isolated place).

    I know you could explain all this to your neighbor because you’ve explained it so well to us – you have the knowledge and I know you have the bravery because you’ve made it this far! I hope all goes well!


    Just a quick update. Unfortunately, I sense that my neighbor is still trying to avoid me and is not comfortable interacting with me. Of course, this makes me feel even worse, even more rejected and misunderstood. I don’t really know if or how I will ever be able to explain my vaginismus to him, or whether it’s even worth trying — because I’m afraid he will say something even more hurtful if I bring up our unfortunate experience together.

    The most important thing for me is to find a way to heal the hurt I’m feeling, and part of that I’m pretty sure means knowing that he has at least heard my perspective (even if he is unable to offer empathy or unable to fully understand my feelings). But that’s a tough thing to achieve with the current “cold war” going on between us. I’ve done a lot of work talking this through with friends, writing down my feelings and sample scripts for what I might say to him, rethinking over and over how best to approach him (waffling from being mostly factual in explaining vaginismus without addressing my feelings at first just to open the conversation: “I’m sorry things didn’t end well between us. I think it would help if I told you what was going on for me so that maybe you’ll understand me better” — to saying something kind of vague and yes, sort of angry too: “I’m still stunned and feeling awful about what happened. It’s not easy for me to talk about, but I can’t help it when my body shuts down like that. And I don’t know what else I can say or do at this point. I’d like to break the uncomfortable tension between us, but I can’t do it if you won’t talk to me.”

    He’s my next door neighbor, so I am constantly reminded of the devastating incident, to the point that I spend a lot of time now looking for a new home so that I can move away. I wish this wasn’t the case, but the experience hurt me so deeply, made me feel such a sense of rejection, that I don’t know how much longer I can live next door to him and remain sane. I should mention that he was the first person I’ve been intimate with in 18 years, and I trusted him as a friend and neighbor, never imagining that I wouldn’t have fun regardless of what happened. And that I’ve never had a negative sexual experience before (even when vaginismus prevented penetration and even during a 3-year casual/no emotions/no affection type affair).

    I know I’ve lost perspective now after 2 months of feeling so upset and awful. Do you think bringing it up with him is just going to make me seem desperate and lead to more hurt for me? Maybe “closure” can only come from within myself. Or does the “hidden”/unspoken condition of vaginismus make this situation different? Because I sense that he’s terribly embarrassed and/or hurt by his erectile dysfunction and is reacting so negatively because of that, never guessing that I might be feeling something similar and that vaginismus meant that he didn’t have much of a chance that night if penetration was his goal. Or should I just wait and see what happens. He might not be ready (if ever) to discuss that night and might not be able to see past his own feelings to acknowledge mine. I might just be a terrible reminder of his own sense of failure and shame. And no matter how much I try to talk about it (or even just to smooth things over without talking about it), this tension may not be resolved in the near future (if ever). Thoughts?


    Hi Leslie – thanks for giving us an update, although I’m sorry you’re still feeling so much turmoil. The way I see it is that you are already experiencing a lot of misery and total alienation from your neighbor, so you really have nothing to lose by being open with him aobut how you’re feeling. In my experience, a lot of the pain we feel around relationships is by living in ambiguity – you aren’t SURE whether sharing your experience would make things better, so you’re tortured by that possibility without an answer.

    Speaking your truth is a way of vanquishing that uncertainty. No matter what his answer is, you won’t have to keep running scripts in your head trying to find the “perfect” way to tell him what you’re thinking. I have a suspicion that if he hasn’t brought it up himself after 2 months of opportunity, he won’t – which leaves you with the power to break through this wall that’s silencing you both.

    Even if your neighbor is unresponsive or unwilling to be vulnerable in response to you sharing your own feelings, you don’t have to wonder anymore – you’ll know for sure that he’s got his own issues he’s avoiding. That will hurt – but then you’ll be able to move on to whatever comes next, out of this limbo. And in the event that he receives this information well, it could be an opportunity to forge a new connection or to give him space to talk about the burden he’s carrying.

    It’s definitely true that closure comes from within, and if you can find a different way of bringing yourself closure, that is a totally okay thing if you don’t feel ready to speak to him. But I get the impression that this will keep bothering you until you say something – so you should give yourself the gift of being able to move on past this bad moment, whether that’s with your neighbor or without him.

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